Heimel, Kai, Prof. Dr.

apl. Professor for Microbial Cell Biology

  • 01/2019-03/2019: Guest Professor (invited), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  • Since 04/2018: apl. Professor for Microbial Cell Biology, Georg-August-University Göttingen
  • 04/2012-03/2018: Junior Professor for Microbial Cell Biology, Georg-August-University Göttingen
  • 2012: Teaching stand-in for W3 Professorship of Genetics and Cell Biology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
  • 2010-2011: Postdoctoral fellow at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
  • 2010: Dr. rer. nat., Philipps-University Marburg
  • 2005 - 2010: Doctoral thesis, Max-Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) (Germany)
  • 2000 - 2005: Diploma (Biology), Philipps-University Marburg (Germany)

Major Research Interests

Research in our laboratory is focused on the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR) in development and disease signaling. Cells need to re-adjust and modify their cellular programs in response to a wide range of biotic and abiotic stimuli. The UPR is a highly conserved cellular response to maintain homeostasis of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In situations of increased demands for protein production and secretion, potentially harmful un- or mis-folded proteins accumulate in the ER and activate the UPR pathway. Defects in UPR signaling are associated with a wide range of developmental, metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders. Besides the role as a cellular stress response, recent work demonstrated that the UPR pathway is also involved in control of developmental processes. We uncovered that UPR signaling in the phytopathogenic fungus Ustilago maydis is required for disease development and directly coupled to the pathways that control parasitic growth of the fungus. Our future studies will aim to characterize these connections on a molecular level and further explore the role of UPR signaling in controlling cellular behavior and responses to different environments.

Homepage Department/Research Group


Selected Recent Publications

  • Pinter N, Hach CA, Hampel M, Rekhter D, Zienkiewicz K, Feussner I, Poehlein A, Daniel R, Finkernagel F, Heimel K (2019) Signal peptide peptidase activity connects the unfolded protein response to plant defense suppression by Ustilago maydis. PLoS Pathog. Apr 18;15(4):e1007734. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007734. eCollection 2019 Apr.
  • Schmitz L, McCotter S, Kretschmer M, Kronstad JW, Heimel K (2018) Transcripts and tumors: regulatory and metabolic programming during biotrophic phytopathogenesis. F1000Res. Nov 19;7. pii: F1000 Faculty Rev-1812. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.16404.1. eCollection 2018.
  • Hampel M, Jakobi M, Schmitz L, Meyer U, Finkernagel F, Doehlemann G, Heimel K (2016) Unfolded Protein Response (UPR) Regulator Cib1 Controls Expression of Genes Encoding Secreted Virulence Factors in Ustilago maydis. PLoS One 11: e0153861.
  • Lo Presti L, López Díaz C, Turrà D, Di Pietro A, Hampel M, Heimel K, Kahmann R (2015) A conserved co-chaperone is required for virulence in fungal plant pathogens. New Phytol 209(3): 1135-1148.
  • Heimel K (2015) Unfolded protein response in filamentous fungi – Implications in biotechnology. Appl Mircobiol Biotechnol 99: 121-132.
  • Kellner N, Heimel K, Obhof T, Finkernagel F, Kämper J (2014) The SPF27 homologue Num1 connects splicing and kinesin 1-dependent cytoplasmic trafficking in Ustilago maydis. PLoS Genetics 10: e1004046; featured in Faculty of 1000 prime
  • Heimel K, Freitag J, Hampel M, Ast J, Bölker M, Kämper J (2013) Crosstalk between the Unfolded Protein Response and Pathways That Regulate Pathogenic Development in Ustilago maydis. Plant Cell 25: 4262-4277.
  • Heimel K, Scherer M, Schuler D, Kämper J (2010) The Ustilago maydis Clp1 Protein Orchestrates Pheromone and b-Dependent Signaling Pathways to Coordinate the Cell Cycle and Pathogenic Development. Plant Cell (8): 2908-22.
  • Heimel K*, Scherer M*, Vranes M, Wahl R, Pothiratana C, Schuler D, Vincon V, Finkernagel F, Flor-Parra I, Kämper J (2010) The transcription factor Rbf1 is the master regulator for bmating type controlled pathogenic development in Ustilago maydis. PLoS Pathog 6(8): e1001035 (*equal contribution).